Search This Blog

Translate

White House.gov Press Office Feed

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Secretary Panetta Town Hall at Fort Benning, Ga.

Secretary Panetta Town Hall at Fort Benning, Ga.

TRANSCANADA SUBMITS NEW PIPELINE APPLICATION


FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
New Pipeline Application Received from TransCanada
Media Note Office of the Spokesperson Washington, DC
May 4, 2012
The State Department has received a new application from TransCanada Corp. for a proposed pipeline that would run from the Canadian border to connect to an existing pipeline in Steele City, Nebraska. The new application includes proposed new routes through the state of Nebraska. The Department is committed to conducting a rigorous, transparent and thorough review.

Under Executive Order 13337, it is the Department’s responsibility to determine if granting a permit for the proposed pipeline is in the national interest. We will consider this new application on its merits. Consistent with the Executive Order, this involves consideration of many factors, including energy security, health, environmental, cultural, economic, and foreign policy concerns.

We will begin by hiring an independent third-party contractor to assist the Department, including reviewing the existing Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) from the prior Keystone XL pipeline review process, as well as identifying and assisting with new analysis.

We will cooperate with the state of Nebraska, as well as other relevant State and Federal agencies, throughout the process. Nebraska has stated that their own review of the new route will take six to nine months. Previously when we announced review of alternate routes through Nebraska this past fall, our best estimate on when we would complete the national interest determination was the first quarter of 2013.

We will conduct our review efficiently, using existing analysis as appropriate.
The application will be available on the Keystone XL project website: www.keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov, and a notice that the Department has received the application will run in the Federal Register.

SOUTH KOREAN CORPORATION EXEC. PLEADS GUILTY TO OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE AND SUBMITTING FALSE DOCUMENTS


FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Hyosung Corporation Executive Agrees to Plead Guilty to Obstruction of Justice for Submitting False Documents in an ATM Merger Investigation

WASHINGTON – An executive of South Korean-based Hyosung Corporation has agreed to plead guilty and to serve time in a U.S. prison for obstruction of justice charges in connection with an automated teller machine (ATM) merger investigation conducted by the Antitrust Division, the Department of Justice announced today.

According to a two-count felony charge filed today in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., Kyoungwon Pyo, in his role as senior vice president for corporate strategy of Hyosung Corporation, an affiliate of Nautilus Hyosung Holdings Inc. (NHI), altered and directed subordinates to alter numerous existing corporate documents before they were submitted to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in conjunction with mandatory premerger filings. The department said that Pyo’s actions took place in or about July and August 2008.  At the time, the department was investigating Korea-based NHI’s proposed acquisition of Triton Systems of Delaware Inc.  NHI abandoned the proposed acquisition of competitor Triton Systems before the Antitrust Division reached a decision determining whether to challenge the transaction.

On Oct. 20, 2011, NHI pleaded guilty and paid a $200,000 criminal fine for its role in the obstruction of justice charges. According to the plea agreement, which is subject to court approval, Pyo has agreed to serve five months in prison.

“Maintaining the integrity of the merger review and investigation process is one of our highest priorities,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joseph Wayland in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “Senior corporate executives should understand that anyone who attempts to corrupt the process by falsifying materials submitted to the U.S. government will be held accountable for their actions.”

After receiving the premerger filings, the Antitrust Division opened a civil merger investigation of the proposed acquisition. The department said that in or about August and September 2008, Pyo falsified additional documents in response to a document request from the Antitrust Division with the intention of impairing their integrity and availability for use in an official proceeding. The department said that, among other things, the alterations misrepresented and minimized the competitive impact of the proposed acquisition.

The Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended, requires companies contemplating mergers and acquisitions valued above certain thresholds to make filings with the Department of Justice and the FTC. The federal antitrust agencies have authority to investigate and challenge such proposed transactions under Section 7 of the Clayton Act, if the transactions may substantially lessen competition.

NHI was previously charged with obstruction of justice, which carries a maximum criminal fine for a corporation of $500,000 per count.  NHI’s agreed-upon criminal fine of $100,000 per count takes into consideration the nature and extent of the company’s disclosure of wrongdoing and its cooperation in the department’s investigation.

Pyo is charged with obstruction of justice, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a criminal fine of $250,000 for individuals.


U.S. & OHIO REACH SETTLEMENT OVER HAZARDOUS RELEASES IN LOWER ASHTABULA RIVER AND HARBOR


FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Thursday, May 3, 2012
U.S. and State of Ohio Reach $5.5 Million Settlement for Damages from Hazardous Releases in Lower Ashtabula River and Harbor
WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice and Ohio Attorney General have reached a proposed settlement of claims for injuries to natural resources caused by past releases and discharges of hazardous substances into the lower Ashtabula River and Harbor in northeast Ohio.  The consent decree, valued at approximately $5.5 million, was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio on behalf of the designated natural resource trustees, including the Department of the Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

“This agreement will compensate the public for precious natural resources that were damaged by hazardous pollutants released into the Ashtabula watershed over more than half a century,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.  “The settlement also fosters the restoration of wildlife habitat and recreational resources along the Ashtabula that the people of Ohio will be able to enjoy for many years to come.”
           
“Completion of these negotiations marks a major milestone in our collective efforts to restore the Ashtabula River,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.  “Careful stewardship of our waterways and natural resources will ensure that they can be enjoyed by our kids and grandkids.  The federal and state trustees are to be commended for their diligent efforts.”

“This settlement is the result of close coordination among the natural resource trustees, local community stakeholders, and the responsible parties,” said U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius.  “This successful collaboration has resulted in a win-win proposition for the Ashtabula River basin community, enabling community enjoyment of the outdoors and wildlife while promoting a healthy community economy.”

The agreement provides for the acquisition of several ecologically-valuable properties along the Ashtabula River, implementation of habitat restoration projects and land use restrictions to protect restoration properties and reimbursement of natural resource damage assessment costs incurred by the natural resource trustees.

“It is important to maintain recreational and economic vitality along the Ashtabula  River,” said Ohio EPA Director Scott Nally.  “Our Agency will continue to work to restore and protect this great resource that is an essential part of these Northeast Ohio communities.”

Complaints filed by the United States and state of Ohio allege that at various times since the 1940s, numerous industrial facilities in Ashtabula released hazardous pollutants to the river including polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, chlorinated solvents and low-level radioactive materials.  The released hazardous substances injured natural resources in the Ashtabula River and Harbor, resulting in fish consumption advisories and impaired navigational use of the river.  To compensate the public for the value of impaired or lost natural resources, the complainants sought damages from parties that allegedly owned or operated (either directly or through predecessors) facilities where hazardous substances were released and from parties that allegedly arranged for disposal of hazardous substances at one or more of the facilities.  Eighteen companies are participating in the settlement.   Several federal agencies are also responsible for making payments totaling approximately $768,800.

Dredging projects carried out under the Great Lakes Legacy Act and the Water Resources Development Act removed almost 600,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments from the lower Ashtabula River between 2006 and 2008.  The responsible parties previously contributed approximately $23 million toward the cost of the sediment cleanup, and many of the parties also participated in a cleanup of the Fields Brook superfund site, an alleged source of contamination in the lower Ashtabula River.

With contamination already dredged from the river, the proposed settlement targets habitat enhancement and protection.  Under the consent decree, restoration projects approved by the natural resource trustees will be implemented by two groups of responsible parties – a group of four railroad companies and a separate group of 14 companies known as the Ashtabula River Cooperating Group II (ARCG II).
           
The railroads will implement a restoration project on a 6.4 acre riparian parcel known as the 5½ Slip peninsula, which abuts a fish habitat enhancement project previously constructed as part of the Great Lakes Legacy Act sediment cleanup project.  The restoration project will include replacing invasive plant species with a diverse array of native plants; excavating a channel across the peninsula to establish a hydrologic connection between the 5½ Slip and main channel of the Ashtabula River; and establishing an area of emergent wetland habitat along the newly constructed channel.  Land use restrictions will be established on the 5 ½ Slip peninsula to protect the character of the restored property.

ARCG II has agreed to develop and implement various restoration projects identified in the consent decree.  One of the restoration properties, known as the former CDM property, is a 28-acre riverfront parcel along the northern boundary of Indian Trails Park.  The restoration project will include enhancing a six-acre wetland area through invasive species control; planting a diverse array of native vegetation; and installing other improvements, including a canoe launch, boardwalk and small parking area to facilitate public use of the property.

Five other ARCG II restoration properties identified in the decree contain high natural resource value, including rare fen habitat, old growth forest and areas that provide ideal habitat and foraging for various threatened or endangered species.  These properties occupy more than 200 acres and include 3.4 miles of river frontage.  Some adjoin or are close to park areas held by the Ashtabula Township Park Commission.  Collectively, these properties will preserve a natural corridor along an urbanized stretch of river.
           
In addition to restoration properties already acquired by ARCG II, the proposed settlement allows trustees to identify additional properties for possible acquisition and restoration.  ARCG II agreed to spend up to $1.45 million to acquire and restore additional properties.

The trustees will approve all restoration work. The restoration properties will ultimately be transferred to park districts, non-profit organizations or other institutions acceptable to the trustees.  The properties also will be subject to environmental covenants that establish land use restrictions designed to preserve the natural resource value of the properties.

ENGINE TEST PRODUCES CYCLONE


Water forms an interesting cyclonic twist as it is intentionally sucked into the test engine of a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport aircraft during the VIPR project engine health monitoring tests conducted by NASA Dryden. The water was contained on a special platform built by NASA Dryden's Fabrication Branch for the tests. NASA's Aviation Safety Program is developing technology for improved sensors to help spot changes in vibration, speed, temperature and emissions which are symptomatic of engine glitches. These advanced sensors could alert ground crews to problems that can be eliminated with preventive maintenance before becoming serious safety concerns. Ultimately, the sensors could alert pilots to the presence of destructive volcanic ash particles too small for the eyes to see, giving more time for evasive action to prevent engine damage in flight. Image Credit: NASA / Tony Landis

SECRETARY OF LABOR HILDA L. SOLIS STATEMENT ON UNEMPLOYMENT NUMBERS


Statement by Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis on April employment numbers

WASHINGTON — Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis issued the following statement on the April 2012 Employment Situation report released today:

"Our nation's labor market added 130,000 private sector jobs in the month of April, while the unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent, its lowest level in three years.
"Over the last four months, we've added an average of 207,000 private sector jobs. Significantly, the labor market added 53,000 more private sector jobs in February and March than previously had been reported.
"I would characterize our growth as durable and steady. For 26 straight months, we have added private sector jobs. The national unemployment rate has fallen a full point in the last eight months. Layoffs are continuing to come down and are now back to 2006 levels.
"In April, our largest gains — 62,000 new jobs — were in good-paying business and professional services careers, meaning more architects, engineers, computer programmers and consultants are finding jobs. Also, we added another 19,000 manufacturing jobs in April. After losing millions of good manufacturing jobs in the years before and during the deep recession, the economy has added 485,000 manufacturing jobs in the past 26 months.
"We've now created more than 4.2 million private sector jobs under this administration. We are seeing a resilient U.S. labor market continuing to recover from the deepest recession since the Great Depression. But there are still too many unemployed workers who still need assistance to get retrained to get back to work.
"We're on the right path, and we know our recovery would be even stronger if Congress hadn't blocked almost every single proposed investment in the American Jobs Act. The president believes we should be doing more to help state and local governments hire back teachers, policemen, firefighters and construction crews. And he believes we should be doing more to cut taxes on small businesses that are the engine of economic growth.
"Going forward, we have a choice to make. We can either make investments in things like education, transportation and new sources of energy — investments that have always been essential to America's businesses and to creating good middle class jobs. Or we give more tax breaks to wealthy Americans who don't need them and didn't ask for them.
"Prosperity has never just trickled down from a wealthy few. Prosperity has always grown from the heart of a strong middle class. That's why the president laid out a blueprint for an economy that's built to last, based on investments that put America in control of its energy future, improve education and skills for our workers, and support small business and American manufacturing, so we can make more things the world buys."

Secretary Panetta Interview with Judy Woodruff at the Pentagon

Secretary Panetta Interview with Judy Woodruff at the Pentagon

THE ROAD TO MISSILE COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA


FROM:  U.S. DEPARMENT OF STATE
Missile Defense: Road to Cooperation
Remarks Ellen Tauscher
Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense Missile Defense Conference in Russia
Moscow, Russia
May 3, 2012
It is a pleasure to be here today at this important conference on Missile Defense and to present the views of the United States on how cooperation can help establish a new security environment in Europe.

Let me start by thanking Minister Serdyukov (Ser-dyoo-koff) for inviting me to participate today in this conference. I also want to acknowledge my colleagues, Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov and Deputy Defense Minister Antonov, with whom I have had the privilege of working with over the last three years. Together we have worked cooperatively to improve the national security of both the United States and Russia.

That cooperation is the key point that I want to emphasize at the start of this speech. The United States and Russia are working closely together on a range of issues. We are working together to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and reduce global nuclear stockpiles—that includes implementing the New START Treaty, which has been in force for more than a year now. We are working together to move materials to and from Afghanistan. We are working together on counter-narcotic and counter-terrorism operations. And, the United States has worked hard to secure Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization.

The most recent report of the Bilateral Presidential Commission, established by Presidents Obama and Medvedev, highlights what our two governments are doing to broaden and deepen our cooperation and to advance our common interests. The photo on the report’s cover is actually a joint U.S.-Russian inspection mission under the Antarctic Treaty; the U.S. team is led by the Department of State. We’re not just working together in the capitals of the world, we’re actually working together at the ends of the world, too.
Cooperation on missile defense would also facilitate improved relations between the United States and Russia. In fact, it could be a game-changer for those relations. It has the potential to enhance the national security of both the United States and Russia, as well as build a genuine strategic partnership. It presents an opportunity to put aside the vestiges of Cold War thinking and move away from Mutually Assured Destruction toward Mutually Assured Stability.

As we think about the path forward, I want to reiterate a point that Madelyn Creedon just made and that Admiral Hendrickson will make later today. Phases 3 and 4 of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (as well as Phases 1 and 2, for that matter) will not undermine Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent. Nothing we do with respect to our missile defense plans will undercut Russia’s national security. It would not be in our interest to do so, would be expensive and technically extremely difficult.

I urge you to pay close attention to the detailed technical arguments that Madelyn and Randy make about why our system cannot do what the Russian Ministry of Defense says it can do. Russia’s analysis makes incorrect assumptions about the capabilities of our systems. It is these differences and misperceptions that are at the root of this issue. If we cannot agree on those perceptions and assumptions, then we need to figure out a path forward to bridge that gap between our two positions. And that is where cooperation comes into play.

Let’s set aside those misperceptions and look at areas in which we could cooperate, which would provide Russia insight into U.S. and NATO plans and programs that will refute the assumptions used in its models.

Sharing of sensor data, working on developing common pre-planned responses, conducting a joint analysis of missile defense systems, and working together on missile defense exercises will allow Russia to see how we do missile defense. Russia has observed our intercept tests in the past and the invitation to observe a future test still stands. By cooperating with us on missile defense, you will be able to see that the European Phased Adaptive Approach is directed against regional threats. Limited regional threats from outside of Europe… not Russia.

Right now, there are six years until Phase 3 of the EPAA becomes operational in 2018. During those six years, we will be testing an Aegis BMD site in Hawaii (that sounds to me like a nice place to visit). We will be developing and testing the SM-3 Block IIA and IIB interceptors. We will also be working with our NATO Allies to ensure how to best protect NATO European populations and territory. Beginning cooperation now will give Russia a chance to see… with their own eyes… what we are doing. And it will give us time to demonstrate how our missile defense systems operate.

I realize it takes time to build confidence. During that time, if you don’t like what you have learned from your experiences working side-by-side with us, then walk away. At least this way, you will be able to make decisions based on data you have collected and observed directly rather than on assumptions and perceptions developed from afar.

As it is, Russia today is in a position of strength that should allow you to explore cooperation. Our missile defense systems are not directed against Russia’s sophisticated nuclear deterrent force. We do not seek an arms race with Russia; we seek cooperation that can help convince you that your national security and strategic stability is not threatened. While Russia talks about countermeasures as a hedge against our defensive system, we hope that instead, through cooperation and transparency, Russia will conclude such development is unnecessary. So join us now, in the missile defense tent.
One of the best ways to build that confidence would be to work with us on NATO-Russia missile defense Centers where we can share sensor data and develop coordinated pre-planned responses and reach agreement on our collective approach to the projected threat. This will give us collectively a common understanding and foundation. Furthermore, we have seen the positive benefit this cooperation could have on missile defense effectiveness at the recent NATO-Russia Council Theater Missile Defense Computer Aided Exercise.

While we undertake this missile defense cooperation, our two governments could do even more to prevent the proliferation of ballistic missile technology. We already cooperate in the Missile Technology Control Regime and in the Proliferation Security Initiative. We are working together in the UN to counter Iran and North Korea’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Just last month, we worked together in the UN Security Council to strongly condemn the DPRK’s missile launch and placed additional sanctions on transfers of nuclear and ballistic missile technology to and from North Korea. Working together on missile defense would also send a strong message to proliferators that Russia, NATO and the United States are working to counter their efforts.

Should the regional ballistic missile threats be reduced, our missile defense system can adapt accordingly. That is why it is called the Phased Adaptive Approach. It can and will be adapted to changes in the threat.

But let me be clear. While we can work cooperatively together, we cannot agree to the pre-conditions outlined by the Russian Government. We are committed to deploying effective missile defenses to protect the U.S. homeland and our Allies and partners around the world from the proliferation of ballistic missiles.

We will not agree to limitations on the capabilities and numbers of our missile defense systems. We cannot agree to a legally binding guarantee with a set of “military-technical criteria,” which would, in effect, limit our ability to develop and deploy future missile defense systems against regional threats such as Iran and North Korea.
We cannot accept limitations on where we deploy our Aegis ships. These are multi-mission ships that are used for a variety of missions around the world, not just for missile defense.

The United States and NATO also cannot agree to Russia’s proposal for “sectoral” missile defense. Just as Russia must ensure the defense of its own territory, NATO must ensure the defense of its own territory.

We are able to agree to a political statement that our missile defenses are not directed at Russia. I have been saying this for many, many months now. Such a political statement would publicly proclaim our intent to cooperate and chart the direction for cooperation.
The United States has also been transparent about our missile defense programs. We have provided Russia with a number of ideas and approaches for transparency. We are also committed to discussing other approaches to building confidence between our two countries. For example, we have also invited Russia to observe one of our Aegis SM-3 missile defense flight tests. Russia could operate in international waters and observe our missile defense test. This would provide Russia the opportunity to see for itself what we are saying about our system.

Russia is a major global power. European security is central to Russia’s security, as it is to the security of the United States and our European allies. Missile defense is the big new idea in European security. We don’t see any other comparable initiative with such potential to transform our relationship. If we can work together on European missile defense, and make this a subject for cooperation rather than competition, that would be a game-changer for our security relationship. We understand that there are risks involved, and it takes courage to move away from familiar ways. We believe those risks are manageable. We can begin now, and if the benefits we see are not realized, cooperation can be terminated at any time.

In a little over two weeks, President Putin and President Obama will meet in Washington. This is an important opportunity for the leaders of our two countries to chart the path forward on missile defense cooperation.

I continue to hope that my Russian colleagues see this as an opportunity that they should take sooner rather than later. I hope that they recognize we have no capability or intent to undermine strategic stability; that our objective is not about winning public relations points; and that cooperation is a much better approach than sticking to the previous patterns of competition.
The United States seeks genuine cooperation. Our objective is to create lasting cooperation and change outdated thinking. This is too important an opportunity to let it pass by.

So we will keep working to see if we can come up with a plan for cooperation. We will continue to press in the Foreign Affairs, Defense and Joint Staff channels, and we will keep moving forward in the run up to the May meeting of our two Presidents and we will keep going long after May.

And I hope, that someday soon, we can begin this important, gamechanging cooperation.
Thank you again for the opportunity to present the United States’ position on cooperation at this conference today. I look forward to continuing the discussion.


GUANTANAMO BAY ARRAIGNMENT

FROM:  AMERICAN FORCES PRESS SERVICE

Lawyers, Onlookers Prepare for Guantanamo Bay Arraignment

By Karen Parrish
NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, May 4, 2012 - Two planeloads of people arrived here today to participate in or watch court proceedings against five detainees who allegedly conspired in the 9/11 attacks on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is accused of obtaining approval and funding from the late al-Qaida chieftain Osama bin Laden for the attacks, overseeing the entire operation and training the hijackers in all aspects of the operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Charges were referred April 4 in the case of the United States vs. Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi. Tomorrow's arraignment is the next step in the military commissions process.

Overall charges allege that the five accused are responsible for the planning and execution of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., resulting in the deaths of 2,976 people.
The defendants will hear the charges against them and have the opportunity to enter a plea. The judge may then entertain motions from the defense or prosecution. The five detainees are charged with terrorism, hijacking aircraft, conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, and destruction of property in violation of the law of war.
The Office of Military Commissions sent 91 people here, including prosecution and defense teams. A dozen family members of 9/11 victims also traveled here with military escorts. Representatives of human rights groups and other organizations sent a total of 11 people, and nearly 60 media representatives rounded out today's new arrivals here.

Motions filed this week include a defense notice of intent to disclose classified information, and a motion and supplemental motion filed by the American Civil Liberties Union for public access to proceedings and records.
A trial date has not been set, and defense officials have said a trial is not likely to begin for at least several months.

If convicted following trial, the defendants could be sentenced to death. In accordance with the Military Commissions Act of 2009, each of the accused has been provided learned counsel with specialized knowledge and experience in death penalty cases. As the act also stipulates, military commissions cannot admit into evidence statements obtained through cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The accused are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, officials emphasized.

COUNTER NARCOTICS PROGRAMS IN AFGHANISTAN


FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs' Counter narcotics Programs in Afghanistan
Fact Sheet
Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
May 4, 2012
Public Information: The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) supports the Ministry of Counter Narcotics (MCN) Counternarcotics Public Information Program (CNPI) through the Colombo Plan Drug Advisory Program (CPDAP), as well as through grants to media companies, non-governmental organizations, and Afghan government organizations. Since January 2011, the CNPI program has raised awareness about the harms of the drug trade through 411 provincial outreach activities reaching an estimated 107,135 people across Afghanistan. The CNPI program has supported a nationwide media outreach program, including 5,098 radio and TV spots and 64,466 print materials over the past year. In 2011, the Preventative Drug Education program was implemented in 300 schools and reached over 60,000 boys and girls. In April of 2012, the Ministry of Education agreed upon an elementary school curriculum.

Demand Reduction: INL-sponsored drug treatment centers provide residential, outpatient, and home-based assistance to more than 10,000 addicts per year, including services for women, children and adolescents. INL is the largest international donor to addiction prevention and treatment services in Afghanistan, funding 29 in-patient drug treatment centers. INL routinely conducts independent, science-based outcome evaluations of its major drug treatment initiatives. Over 500 mullahs have been trained on the problems of drug addiction and how to conduct community shuras on the dangers of drug consumption, cultivation, and trafficking. With INL support, mullahs have opened outreach centers in their mosques and are now a major source of referral of addicts into treatment.

Supply Reduction: The MCN’s Good Performers Initiative (GPI) provides development assistance to provinces that meet annual counternarcotics goals. In 2011, 22 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces received GPI awards totaling $19.2 million for achieving poppy free status, reducing poppy cultivation by more than 10 percent, and/or demonstrating other exemplary counternarcotics progress. The MCN’s Governor Led Eradication (GLE) program provides funding to Governors who undertake Afghan-led eradication. During 2011, 18 provinces participated in the GLE program (up from 10 in 2010), resulting in a more than 65 percent increase in nationwide eradication from the previous year.

Interdiction: INL, DEA, and DOD partner to build the capacity of the Counternarcotics Police of Afghanistan (CNPA), the Sensitive Investigative Unit (SIU), National Interdiction Unit (NIU), and the Technical Investigative Unit (TIU). NIU and SIU officers are now able to request and then execute their own warrants. Evidence gathered by the TIU through court-ordered surveillance operations increased the number of large-scale drug trafficking and related corruption cases brought to the Criminal Justice Task Force. In 2011, these specialized units were a critical piece in the interdiction of over ten metric tons of heroin and 82 metric tons of opium in Afghanistan.

Counternarcotics Justice: INL supports Department of Justice mentoring and operations at the Criminal Justice Task Force and the Counter Narcotics Justice Center (CNJC), which investigates and tries counternarcotics cases. Overall, the CNJC has a conviction rate of over 90 percent (712 primary court convictions in 2011, the most recent year for which statistics are available, including 35 government officials), with all those convicted serving jail time.

International and Regional Cooperation: INL supports multilateral and bilateral efforts to study and improve Afghan-led and regional counternarcotics efforts, including through the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Colombo Plan. With INL funding, UNODC and the Afghan government publish the annual Opium Cultivation Survey as an authoritative resource on illicit cultivation in Afghanistan. INL is also a strong supporter of regional law enforcement and policy coordination efforts through the UNODC’s Paris Pact Initiative.

Counternarcotics Capacity Building: INL’s efforts to build capacity at the MCN began in 2010, with results including an infusion of Afghan and expatriate mentors and action officers. Additional materiel and capacity building assistance are in process, including information technology assistance and a vehicle acquisition that will enable MCN’s provincial offices better to perform their core functions. A key element of MCN’s mandate is the development of a National Drug Control Strategy, a rewrite of which is in the final stages of development.

THE USNS CESAR CHAVEZ DRY CARGO/AMMUNITION SHIP WILL BE CHRISTENED MAY 5, 2012


FROM:  U.S. NAVY
WASHINGTON (May 12, 2011) A photo illustration of the Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE 14). Chavez served in the Navy from 1944-1946 and became a civil rights activist and a leader in the American labor movement. Cesar Chavez will serve as a combat logistics force ship delivering ammunition, food, fuel and other dry cargo to U.S. and allied ships at sea. (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist Jay M. Chu/Released) 

Navy to Christen USNS Cesar Chavez 
By Department of Defense Public Affairs
WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy will christen and launch the dry cargo/ammunition ship the USNS Cesar Chavez, Saturday, May 5, 2012, during a 7:30 p.m. PDT ceremony at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego.

The ship is named to honor prominent civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, who served in the Navy during World War II.

Juan M. Garcia III, assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs, will deliver the ceremony's principal address. Serving as the ship's sponsor is Helen Fabela Chavez, widow of the ship's namesake. The ceremony will include the Navy's time-honored tradition of the sponsor breaking a bottle of champagne across the bow to formally christen the ship.

Continuing the Lewis and Clark class T-AKE tradition of honoring legendary pioneers and explorers, the Navy's newest underway replenishment ship recognizes Mexican-American civil rights activist Cesar Chavez (1927-1993), who served in the Navy during World War II. Chavez later went on to become a leader in the American Labor Movement and co-found the National Farm Workers Association, which became the United Farm Workers.

Designated T-AKE 14, Cesar Chavez is the final of the Lewis and Clark dry cargo/ammunition ships, all of which will be operated by the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command. To help the Navy maintain a worldwide forward presence by delivering ammunition, food, fuel, and other supplies to U.S. and allied ships at sea, T-AKEs are serving as combat logistics force (CLF) ships. In support of the enhanced maritime prepositioning ship squadron concept of operations, two T-AKEs are being allocated to the maritime prepositioning squadrons to provide sea-based logistics support to Marine Corps units afloat and ashore.

As part of MSC, T-AKE 14 is designated as a united states naval ship and will be crewed by civil service mariners. This is the first Navy ship named after Chavez. For CLF missions, the T-AKEs' crews include a small department of sailors.

Like the other dry cargo/ammunition ships, T-AKE 14 is designed to operate independently for extended periods at sea and can carry two helicopters and their crews. The ship is 689 feet in length, has an overall beam of 106 feet, has a navigational draft of 30 feet, displaces approximately 42,000 tons and is capable of reaching a speed of 20 knots using a single-shaft, diesel-electric propulsion system.

2010 CHILE ECOLOGICAL EFFECTS


FROM:  NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
First-of-its-Kind Study Reveals Surprising Ecological Effects of 2010 Chile Earthquake
Long-forgotten coastal habitats reappeared, species unseen for years returned
May 2, 2012
The reappearance of long-forgotten habitats and the resurgence of species unseen for years may not be among the expected effects of a natural disaster.
Yet that's exactly what researchers found in a study of the sandy beaches of south central Chile, after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake and devastating tsunami in 2010.
Their study also revealed a preview of the problems wrought by sea level rise--a major symptom of climate change.

In a scientific first, researchers from Southern University of Chile and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) were able to document the before-and-after ecological impacts of such cataclysmic occurrences.

A paper appearing today in the journal PLoS ONE details the surprising results of their study, pointing to the potential effects of natural disasters on sandy beaches worldwide.
The study is said to be the first-ever quantification of earthquake and tsunami effects on sandy beach ecosystems along a tectonically active coastal zone.

"So often you think of earthquakes as causing total devastation, and adding a tsunami on top of that is a major catastrophe for coastal ecosystems," said Jenny Dugan, a biologist at UCSB.

"As expected, we saw high mortality of intertidal life on beaches and rocky shores, but the ecological recovery at some of our sandy beach sites was remarkable.
"Plants are coming back in places where there haven't been plants, as far as we know, for a very long time. The earthquake created sandy beach habitat where it had been lost. This is not the initial ecological response you might expect from a major earthquake and tsunami."

Their findings owe a debt to serendipity.
The researchers were knee-deep in a study supported by FONDECYT in Chile and the U.S. National Science Foundation's (NSF) Santa Barbara Coastal Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site of how sandy beaches in Santa Barbara and south central Chile respond, ecologically, to man-made armoring such as seawalls and rocky revetments.
By late January, 2010, they had surveyed nine beaches in Chile.
The earthquake hit in February.

Recognizing a unique opportunity, the scientists changed gears and within days were back on the beaches to reassess their study sites in the catastrophe's aftermath.
They've returned many times since, documenting the ecological recovery and long-term effects of the earthquake and tsunami on these coastlines, in both natural and human-altered settings.

"It was fortunate that these scientists had a research program in the right place--and at the right time--to allow them to determine the responses of coastal species to natural catastrophic events," said David Garrison, program director for NSF's coastal and ocean LTER sites.

The magnitude and direction of land-level change resulting from the earthquake and exacerbated by the tsunami brought great effects, namely the drowning, widening and flattening of beaches.

The drowned beach areas suffered mortality of intertidal life; the widened beaches quickly saw the return of biota that had vanished due to the effects of coastal armoring.
"With the study in California and Chile, we knew that building coastal defense structures, such as seawalls, decreases beach area, and that a seawall results in the decline of intertidal diversity," said lead paper author Eduardo Jaramillo of the Universidad Austral de Chile.
"But after the earthquake, where significant continental uplift occurred, the beach area that had been lost due to coastal armoring has now been restored," said Jaramillo. "And the re-colonization of the mobile beach fauna was underway just weeks afterward."
The findings show that the interactions of extreme events with armored beaches can produce surprising ecological outcomes. They also suggest that landscape alteration, including armoring, can leave lasting footprints in coastal ecosystems.

"When someone builds a seawall, beach habitat is covered up with the wall itself, and over time sand is lost in front of the wall until the beach eventually drowns," said Dugan.
"The semi-dry and damp sand zones of the upper and mid-intertidal are lost first, leaving only the wet lower beach zones. This causes the beach to lose diversity, including birds, and to lose ecological function."

Sandy beaches represent about 80 percent of the open coastlines globally, said Jaramillo.
"Beaches are very good barriers against sea level rise. They're important for recreation--and for conservation."

THE LAST F-22 RAPTOR


FROM:  U.S. AIR FORCE
A crowd that included Air Force leadership, senators and congressional representatives, executives and plant personnel from the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Corporation attended a ceremony dedicating the delivery of the final F-22 Raptor in Marietta, Ga., May 2, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Peek)

Air Force accepts final F-22 Raptor
by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Gaston
94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

5/3/2012 - MARIETTA, Ga. (AFNS) -- Senior Air Force officials attended a ceremony here May 2 commemorating the delivery of the final F-22 Raptor to the service.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz was joined by Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia and other industry, Air Force and civilian leaders as they were welcomed to Dobbins Air Reserve Base and the Lockheed Martin Marietta plant for the event.

The final delivery completes the Air Force's fleet of 195 F-22s. The Raptor is a key component of the Global Strike Task Force and is unmatched by any fighter aircraft due to its speed, stealth and maneuverability, according to Air Force officials.

During his remarks at the ceremony, Schwartz said the delivery represents an important element in the Air Force's overall modernization effort.

"Thank you to all of the partners in industry and government that made this occasion a reality," the general said. "I especially want to pay tribute to the line workers and engineers whose technical expertise, attention to detail and commitment to our nation's defense transformed an innovative notion into America's first 5th generation fighter aircraft."

When it was time to unveil the final F-22, the hangar doors rose and cheers from the assembled guests and workers erupted.

Robert Stevens, Lockheed Martin chairman and chief executive officer, said the very existence of the F-22 has altered the strategic landscape forever.

"It is also fair to say that, along the way, the F-22 has had a fair number of challenges and a fair number of critics," Stevens said. "But let's not fail to take note today of the number of nations, who rank among either competitors or adversaries, who are frantically trying to replicate what you have done."

The final F-22, tail number 4195, will be flown to its new unit at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage, Alaska.


TEXAS MAN SENTENCED FOR BANKRUPTCY FRAUD AND IDENTITY THEFT IN A NATIONWIDE SCHEME


FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Austin, Texas, Man Sentenced to 61 Months in Federal Prison for Bankruptcy Fraud and Identity Theft in Connection with Nationwide Foreclosure-rescue Scheme Defendant Collected $1.6 Million from More Than 1,100 Distressed Homeowners

WASHINGTON – An Austin, Texas, man was sentenced today in the Western District of Texas to 61 months in prison and was ordered to forfeit $84,010 for his role in operating a foreclosure-rescue scam in Southern California and elsewhere that charged distressed homeowners fees in exchange for fraudulently delaying foreclosure sales.

The sentence was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. of the Central District of California, U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman of the Western District of Texas, Assistant Director in Charge Steven Martinez of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office and Christy Romero, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP).

Frederic Alan Gladle, 53, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel.  Gladle pleaded guilty on Jan. 6, 2012, to one count of bankruptcy fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.  He was originally charged on Dec. 9, 2011.  In addition to the $84,010, Gladle was ordered to forfeit 63 prepaid, reloadable debit cards that he used to further his scheme.

“Mr. Gladle concocted an elaborate fraud scheme to use the financial crisis to his criminal advantage,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer.  “He preyed upon vulnerable homeowners facing foreclosure, just as the housing bubble began to burst and stood in the way of financial institutions attempting to collect on their debts.  We will continue to pursue scam artists like Mr. Gladle and ensure that they are held accountable for their crimes.”

“Foreclosure-rescue scams are designed to victimize people in extreme financial distress,” said U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr.  “Financial predators like Mr. Gladle need to be held accountable for the harm they cause and today’s sentence does just that, sending the message to scam artists like Mr. Gladle that the final outcome for their criminal schemes is a long stay in federal prison.”

“Gladle preyed on struggling homeowners with promises to delay their foreclosures for a fee,” said Christy Romero, Special Inspector General at SIGTARP.  “To forestall the foreclosures, Gladle deeded away a portion of their homes to unsuspecting debtors in bankruptcy, stealing the debtors’ identities and forging their signatures.  Gladle exploited homeowners, the debtors whose identities he stole, and multiple banks, including TARP banks.  The exploitation of TARP will not be tolerated, and SIGTARP and our partners will hold individuals accountable for their actions.”

“This scheme was particularly insidious in that Mr. Gladle exploited victims who were already in financial straits,” said FBI Assistant Director Martinez.  “This sentence should send a message to those contemplating similar fraud targeting vulnerable individuals or the banking system and, in addition, should encourage those trying to salvage their homes to beware of fraudulent rescue offers.”

Gladle admitted that beginning in October 2007 and continuing until October 2011, he operated a foreclosure-rescue fraud scheme that netted him more than $1.6 million in fees from distressed homeowners.  According to court documents, Gladle used five aliases to avoid detection, including stealing the identity of at least one person and setting up a mobile phone account in that victim’s name.
Gladle admitted that he recruited homeowners whose properties were in danger of imminent foreclosure and falsely promised to delay the foreclosures for up to six months, in exchange for a fee of approximately $750 per month.  Gladle, directly or through salespersons, directed homeowners to sign deeds granting fractional interest in their properties to debtors in bankruptcy proceedings whose names Gladle found by searching bankruptcy records.  The debtors were unaware that their names and bankruptcy cases were being stolen by Gladle in his scheme.  Gladle then sent the unsuspecting debtors’ bankruptcy petitions, and the deeds that transferred fractional interests to the debtors, to the homeowners’ lenders to stop foreclosure proceedings.

Because bankruptcy filings give rise to automatic stays that protect debtors’ properties, the receipt of the bankruptcy petitions and deeds in the debtors’ names forced lenders to cancel foreclosure sales.  The lenders, which included banks that received government funds under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), could not move forward to collect money that was owed to them until getting permission from the bankruptcy courts, thereby repeatedly delaying the lenders’ recovery of their money.  When homeowners wanted to void the deeds to the unsuspecting debtors, Gladle would forge the debtors’ signatures on papers voiding the deeds.

A defendant charged in the Northern and Central Districts of California for a separate similar foreclosure rescue scheme, Glen Alan Ward, was arrested in Canada last month.  Ward has been a fugitive sought by U.S. federal authorities since 2000.  According to court documents, Ward, who also goes by the name Brandon Michaels, is alleged to have worked with and taught Gladle the scheme.  Ward is currently being detained in Canada pending his extradition to the United States.

This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Paul Rosen of the Fraud Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Davis for the Central District of California, with substantial assistance provided by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chris Peele of the Western District of Texas.  The investigation was conducted by the FBI and SIGTARP, which received substantial assistance from the U.S. Trustee’s Office.

SEC CHARGES UBS PUERTO RICO AND TWO EXECUTIVES WITH DEFRAUDING FUND CUSTOMERS


FROM:  SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
SEC Charges UBS Puerto Rico and Two Executives with Defrauding Fund Customers
Washington, D.C., May 1, 2012 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged UBS Financial Services Inc. of Puerto Rico and two executives with making misleading statements to investors, concealing a liquidity crisis, and masking its control of the secondary market for 23 proprietary closed-end mutual funds.

UBS Puerto Rico agreed to settle the SEC’s charges by paying $26.6 million that will be placed into a fund for harmed investors.
According to the SEC’s order instituting settled administrative proceedings against UBS Puerto Rico, the firm knew about a significant “supply and demand imbalance” and discussed the “weak secondary market” internally. However, UBS Puerto Rico misled investors and failed to disclose that it controlled the secondary market, where investors sought to sell their shares in the funds. UBS Puerto Rico significantly increased its inventory holdings in the closed-end funds in order to prop up market prices, bolster liquidity, and promote the appearance of a stable market. However, UBS Puerto Rico later withdrew its market price and liquidity support in order to sell 75 percent of its closed-end fund inventory to unsuspecting investors.

The SEC instituted contested administrative proceedings against UBS Puerto Rico’s vice chairman and former CEO Miguel A. Ferrer and its head of capital markets Carlos J. Ortiz.

“UBS Puerto Rico denied its closed-end fund customers what they were entitled to under the law – accurate price and liquidity information, and a trading desk that did not advantage UBS’s trades over those of its customers,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.

Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office, added, “We will aggressively prosecute firms that use conflicts of interest for their own financial gain.”
According to the SEC’s order, starting in 2008, UBS Puerto Rico solicited thousands of retail investors by promoting the closed-end funds’ market performance and continuously high premiums to net asset value (up to 45 percent) as the result of supply and demand in a competitive and liquid secondary market. When investor demand began to decline, UBS Puerto Rico sought to maintain the illusion of a liquid market by buying shares into its own inventory from customers who wished to exit the market. Despite a falling market, UBS Puerto Rico continued to sell shares by conducting primary offerings in order to grow its closed-end fund business. Throughout this period, UBS Puerto Rico failed to disclose the true state of the market to investors.

According to the SEC’s order, UBS Puerto Rico’s parent firm determined in the spring of 2009 that UBS Puerto Rico’s growing closed-end fund inventory represented a financial risk, and directed the firm to reduce its inventory by 75 percent to reduce that risk and “promote more rational pricing and more clarity to clients . . . [so] prices transparently develop based on supply and demand.” To accomplish the reduction, UBS Puerto Rico executed a plan dubbed “Objective: Soft Landing” in one document, which included:
Undercutting numerous marketable customer sell orders to “eliminate” those orders and liquidate UBS Puerto Rico’s inventory first, preventing customers from selling their shares.

Not disclosing that UBS Puerto Rico was drastically reducing its inventory purchases.
Soliciting customers to sell recently purchased primary offering shares back to the closed-end fund companies, so UBS Puerto Rico could then sell closed-end funds to those customers from its highest inventory positions.

UBS Puerto Rico also increased solicitation efforts to further reduce its inventory while making misrepresentations and failing to disclose UBS Puerto Rico’s withdrawal of secondary market support.

According to the SEC’s order against Ferrer, he made misrepresentations and did not disclose numerous material facts about the closed-end funds. For example, although Ferrer was well aware of the supply and demand imbalance and privately discussed UBS Puerto Rico’s growing inventory and support of the market, he caused UBS Puerto Rico to conduct new primary closed-end fund offerings while directing financial advisors to represent to customers that the market was experiencing “low volatility” and providing “superior returns.” Ferrer also repeatedly made misleading statements about closed-end fund market prices and touted that the funds would always trade at high premiums to net asset value, even while UBS Puerto Rico was substantially reducing its inventory and causing huge investor losses.

According to the SEC’s order against Ortiz, he falsely represented that closed-end fund shares were priced based on supply and demand while in reality he and the firm concealed the inventory increases and rarely changed prices, allowing UBS Puerto Rico to promote the façade of a liquid, stable market. As UBS Puerto Rico was reducing its inventory in 2009, Ortiz touted increased closed-end fund secondary market liquidity and superior price performance to investors at a UBS investor conference. At the same time, Ortiz was executing UBS Puerto Rico’s inventory reduction scheme that involved “eliminat[ing]” marketable customer sell orders to dump UBS Puerto Rico’s inventory first, putting UBS Puerto Rico’s interests ahead of their customers’ orders.

UBS Puerto Rico agreed to settle the SEC’s charges, without admitting or denying the findings, that it violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Sections 10(b) and 15(c) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The order requires UBS Puerto Rico to pay $11.5 million in disgorgement, $1.1 million in prejudgment interest, and a penalty of $14 million. In addition to the monetary relief, the SEC’s order censures UBS Puerto Rico, directs it to cease-and-desist from committing or causing any further violations of the provisions charged, and orders the firm to comply with its undertaking to retain an independent consultant at UBS Puerto Rico’s expense.
Among other things, the independent consultant will review the adequacy of UBS Puerto Rico’s closed-end fund disclosures and trading and pricing policies, procedures, and practices. UBS Puerto Rico shall abide by the determinations of the consultant and adopt and implement all recommendations.

This case was investigated by Jason R. Berkowitz and Sean M. O’Neill of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office following an examination conducted by Carlos A. Gutierrez and Brian H. Dyer under the supervision of Nicholas A. Monaco and John C. Mattimore of the Miami office. Robert K. Levenson, Regional Trial Counsel, and Edward D. McCutcheon, Senior Trial Counsel, will lead the SEC’s litigation.
The SEC acknowledges the assistance and cooperation of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Friday, May 4, 2012

DEFENSE SECRETARY PANETTA SAYS CLIMATE CHANGE A NATIONAL SECURITY THREAT


FROM:  AMERICAN FORCES PRESS SERVICE
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta speaks at an annual reception for the Environmental Defense Fund at the Renwick Gallery in Washington D.C., May 2, 2012. Panetta thanked the organization for recognizing Defense Department efforts to make military bases and equipment more efficient and environmentally friendly. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo  



Panetta: Environment Emerges as National Security Concern
By Nick Simeone
WASHINGTON, May 3, 2012 - Climate and environmental change are emerging as national security threats that weigh heavily in the Pentagon's new strategy, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told an environmental group last night.

"The area of climate change has a dramatic impact on national security," Panetta said here at a reception hosted by the Environmental Defense Fund to honor the Defense Department in advancing clean energy initiatives. "Rising sea levels, severe droughts, the melting of the polar caps, the more frequent and devastating natural disasters all raise demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief," Panetta said.

Panetta cited the melting of Arctic ice in renewing a longstanding call for the Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea. More than 150 nations have accepted the treaty, which has been in force since the early 1990s, and a succession of U.S. government administrations have urged ratification.

Among other things, the convention would guarantee various aspects of passage and overflight for the U.S. military. Panetta urged his audience to use their influence to push for treaty ratification. "We are the only industrialized nation that has not approved that treaty," he said.

The secretary also said he has great concern about energy-related threats to homeland security that are not driven by climate change.

"I have a deep interest in working to try to ensure from a security perspective that we take measures that will help facilitate and maintain power in the event of an interruption of the commercial grid that could be caused, for example, by a cyber attack which is a reality that we have to confront," he said.

Budget considerations compound the issue, the secretary said. The Defense Department spent about $15 billion on fuel for military operations last year. In Afghanistan alone, the Pentagon uses more than 50 million gallons of fuel each month on average. Combined with rising gas prices, this creates new budget issues for the department, Panetta said.
"We now face a budget shortfall exceeding $3 billion because of higher-than-expected fuel costs this year," he told the audience.

Having grown up in pristine Monterey, Calif., Panetta said, he has a lifelong interest in protecting the nation's resources. He pledged to continue to keep the Defense Department on the cutting edge in the push for clean energy and environmental friendly initiatives, a chief reason why the Environmental Defense Fund honored the department.
"In the next fiscal year, we are going to be investing more than a billion dollars in more efficient aircraft and aircraft engines, in hybrid electric drives for our ships, in improved generators, in microgrids for combat bases and combat vehicle energy-efficient programs," he said. "We are investing another billion dollars to make our installations here at home more energy-efficient, and we are using them as the test bed to demonstrate next-generation energy technologies."

CFTC CHARGES 2 INDIVIDUALS AND COMPANY WITH FRAUD AND MISAPPROPRIATION



FROM:  COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION
CFTC Charges Utah Residents Christopher Hales, Eric Richardson and their Company, Bentley Equities, LLC, with Fraud and Misappropriation
CFTC seeks an emergency restraining order freezing defendants’ assets
Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced the filing of a federal court action in Utah charging Bentley Equities, LLC (Bentley), a Delaware corporation, and its principals, Christopher D. Hales and Eric A. Richardson, with fraud and misappropriation in connection with commodity futures trading. Richardson resides in Cedar Hills, Utah, and Hales is currently an inmate at the Florence, Colo., Federal Correction Complex. None of the defendants has ever been registered with the CFTC.

The CFTC’s complaint, filed May 2, 2012, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, alleges that from at least April 2009 through August 2010, the defendants fraudulently solicited and accepted more than $1.1 million from approximately 38 pool participants and clients to trade commodity futures in a commodity pool account and in individual managed accounts.

The CFTC seeks an emergency restraining order freezing the defendants’ assets and prohibiting the destruction or alteration of the defendants’ books and records.

Specifically, according to the CFTC’s complaint, Bentley, Hales, and Richardson misrepresented to customers that their trading was profitable, and that they actively managed more than $1 million in commodity futures accounts. In reality, the complaint charges, the defendants were not successful commodity futures traders and never managed more than $480,000 in commodity futures trading accounts at one time. In fact, the defendants lost approximately $1,296,600 of the Bentley participants’ and managed clients’ funds trading commodity futures contracts, according to the complaint.

The complaint further charges that the defendants misappropriated at least $628,000 of customer funds for personal use, including food, clothing, auto expenses, and utility and credit card payments. The defendants also allegedly used misappropriated funds to make payments to existing participants and clients, as is typical of a Ponzi scheme.

To conceal their trading losses and misappropriation, defendants allegedly issued false account statements to participants and clients by altering trading statements that they received from the futures commission merchant carrying the Bentley pool account. These doctored statements falsely showed inflated account balances and profitable commodity futures trading returns, when, in fact, the defendants’ futures trading for their participants and clients “consistently lost money,” according to the complaint.

In its continuing litigation, the CFTC seeks civil monetary penalties, restitution, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, trading and registration bans, and preliminary and permanent injunctions against further violations of the federal commodities laws, as charged.

In November 2011, Hales was sentenced to more than seven years imprisonment and ordered to pay $12,719,236 in criminal restitution in connection with a judgment entered against him in a related criminal matter for the conduct alleged in the CFTC’s case, as well as mortgage fraud. United States v. Christopher D. Hales,No. 2:10-CR-183-TS-SA-1 (D. Utah, Sept. 2, 2010).

The CFTC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development —Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

USNS MERCY BEGINS MISSION TO INDONESIA


FROM:  AMERICAN FORCES PRESS SERVICE
USNS Mercy Departs for Humanitarian Mission
From a Military Sealift Command News Release

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2012 - Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy left Naval Station San Diego today to begin its part in Pacific Partnership 2012, a four-and-a-half-month humanitarian and civic assistance mission to Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Mercy is crewed by 70 civil service mariners working for Military Sealift Command who operate and navigate the ship while Navy planners and medical personnel plan and execute the mission.
The ship was scheduled to depart May 1, but a mechanical problem delayed the ship's departure for two days.

Pacific Partnership 2012 will take medical, dental, veterinary, engineering and civic assistance projects to Southeast Asia and Oceania. It builds on relationships developed during previous missions, officials said, noting Mercy's participation in international relief efforts following the December 2004 tsunami that struck Southeast Asia and its 2006, 2008 and 2010 humanitarian and civic assistance deployments to the region.
Pacific Partnership 2012 is led by three element commanders: Navy Capt. James Morgan, mission commander for Pacific Partnership 2012 and commander of San Diego-based Destroyer Squadron 7; Navy Capt. Timothy Hinman, commander of the medical treatment facility, who is responsible for the hospital and providing medical care aboard Mercy and ashore; and Capt. Jonathan Olmsted, Mercy's civil service master who has overall responsibility for the ship and the safety of its nearly 1,000 passengers.

"Having participated in Pacific Partnership 2009, I know firsthand what an impact we have on the local populations we visit," Olmsted said. "In building these relationships, we'll have a better understanding of how multiple militaries and civilian organizations can work together to overcome the adversity of a natural disaster."

Throughout the 2012 Pacific Partnership mission, the 894-foot Mercy will serve as a platform from which U.S. and partner nation militaries and nongovernmental organizations will coordinate and carry out humanitarian and civic activities in each country. Japanese landing ship tank Oosumi, carrying a complete medical team, helicopters and representatives from Japanese volunteer organizations, will join Mercy during its stops in the Philippines and Vietnam.

Military Sealift Command's civil service mariners are vital to the mission's success. They navigate the ship to each mission stop and provide the fresh water and electricity needed to run the shipboard hospital and to support the mission personnel living and working aboard.

In addition, the civil service mariners play a critical role in mission success by operating two 33-foot utility boats to transport patients and mission personnel between ship's anchorage and shore. Mercy is too large to pull pierside at any of the mission stops, officials explained, so the operation of these small boats, which can carry more than twice as many passengers as Mercy's two embarked helicopters, will greatly increase the number of people who will benefit from the mission.

"This is the biggest thing I've ever been involved in my life," said Second Officer Casey Bell, a Military Sealift Command civil service mariner working aboard Mercy as the cargo mate. "I'm really excited to get going. I've spent my career moving ammunition or fuel. Now, a better name for me is 'patient mate,' because I'll be working to safely move patients and personnel to and from the ship."

The deployment also will foster new relationships when Mercy stops in three Indonesian islands for the first time in early June.

"I am really looking forward to going beyond what we have done in the past as part of our exchanges," said Hinman about the medical capabilities of the mission. For previous missions, he said, surgeries were traditionally performed by U.S. and partner nation providers aboard Mercy.

"This year's mission provides opportunities to integrate host nation providers into performing surgeries, both on the ship and ashore, as a true exchange of expertise and practice that will greatly increase medical capacity and build relationships," he added.
The mission will include personnel from all branches of the U.S. military, the State and Justice departments, the Agency for International Development, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, 12 partner nations, 11 nongovernmental organizations and numerous in-country organizations.

Military Sealift Command operates about 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships that strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world, move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces, conduct specialized missions and replenish U.S. Navy ships at sea.

18 YEAR OLD PLEADS GUILTY TO CONSPIRACY TO AID TERRORISTS


FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Friday, May 4, 2012
Maryland Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to Terrorists
WASHINGTON – Mohammad Hassan Khalid, 18, a Pakistani citizen and U.S. lawful permanent resident who resided in Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, stemming from his participation in a scheme to support, recruit and coordinate members of a conspiracy in their plan to wage violent jihad in and around Europe.

The guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Petrese B. Tucker in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania was announced by Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Zane David Memeger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; and George C. Venizelos, Special Agent in Charge of the Philadelphia Division of the FBI.

Khalid, aka “Abdul Ba’aree ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Hassan Al-Afghani Al-Junoobi W’at-Emiratee,” was charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists in a superseding indictment returned on Oct. 20, 2011.  Khalid faces a potential sentence of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine at sentencing.

Khalid’s co-defendant, Ali Charaf Damache, aka “Theblackflag,” 46, an Algerian man who resided in Ireland, was charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and one count of attempted identity theft to facilitate an act of international terrorism.  Damache is in custody in Ireland and is being prosecuted there on an unrelated criminal charge.

“Today’s plea, which involved a radicalized teen in Maryland who connected with like-minded individuals around the globe via the Internet, underscores the evolving nature of violent extremism today,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco.  “I thank the many agents, analysts and prosecutors who helped bring about this case.”
“This case has demonstrated that age is not a limiter to threats to our nation’s security,” said U.S. Attorney Memeger.  “Regardless of a defendant's age or background, we are committed to keeping our communities and our country safe through the investigation and prosecution of violent extremist activity.”

“This investigation and the guilty plea announced today underscores the continuing threat we face from violent extremism and radicalism, both from within our country and from across the world,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Venizelos.  “These threats can emerge from anywhere and from anyone, from individuals and groups in the farthest reaches of the globe or from those in the United States sitting in the perceived safety of their own homes.”

According to the plea memorandum, indictment and other court documents filed in the case, from about 2008 through July 2011, Khalid and Damache conspired with Colleen R. LaRose, Jamie Paulin Ramirez and others to provide material support and resources, including logistical support, recruitment services, financial support, identification documents and personnel, to a conspiracy to kill overseas.

LaRose, aka “Fatima LaRose,” aka “JihadJane,” pleaded guilty in February 2011 in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, false statements and attempted identity theft.  Ramirez pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in March 2011 to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

Khalid, Damache and others devised and coordinated a violent jihad organization consisting of men and women from Europe and the United States divided into a planning team, a research team, an action team, a recruitment team and a finance team; some of whom would travel to South Asia for explosives training and return to Europe to wage violent jihad.

As part of the conspiracy, Khalid, Damache, LaRose and others recruited men online to wage violent jihad in South Asia and Europe.  In addition, Khalid, Damache, LaRose and others allegedly recruited women who had passports and the ability to travel to and around Europe in support of violent jihad.  LaRose, Paulin-Ramirez and others traveled to and around Europe to participate in and support violent jihad.  In addition, Khalid, LaRose and others also solicited funds online for terrorists.

For example, in July 2009, Khalid posted or caused to be posted an online solicitation for funds to support terrorism on behalf of LaRose and later sent electronic communications to multiple online forums requesting the deletion of all posts by LaRose after she was questioned by the FBI.  In August 2009, Khalid sent a questionnaire to LaRose in which he asked another potential female recruit about her beliefs and intentions with regard to violent jihad.  In addition, Khalid received from LaRose and concealed the location of a U.S. passport that she had stolen from another individual.

The Khalid case was investigated by the FBI Field Division in Baltimore, in conjunction with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Philadelphia and the FBI Field Divisions in New York and Washington, D.C.  Authorities in Ireland also provided assistance in this matter.

CHINA JOINS ALLIANCE FOR CLEAN COOKSTOVES

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
China Joins the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves
Media Note Office of the Spokesperson Washington, DC
May 3, 2012 
Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo announced that China has joined the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves during a tour of a clean cookstove exhibit with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Beijing today. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is a public-private partnership that seeks to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. By joining the Alliance, China will help meet the Alliance’s goal to ensure 100 million homes adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020.
The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which was launched by Secretary Clinton in 2010, represents the first time that world leaders have come together to develop and implement a sustainable strategy to bring clean and efficient cooking solutions to families across the globe.

In China, approximately 80 percent of households rely on solid fuels like wood or dung to meet their energy needs. According to World Health Organization estimates, this exposure accounts for more than 540,000 premature deaths in China each year, and significant chronic and acute illnesses. By joining the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, China is taking an important step towards reducing the enormous health, gender, economic and environmental risks associated with inefficient and polluting cookstoves both in China and in developing markets around the world.

China’s domestic cookstove industry is one of the world’s largest with over 100 manufacturers. As part of the Alliance, China will support efforts to establish global performance standards for cookstoves and work with domestic manufacturers to meet these standards. China will consider multiple options for work under the Alliance, including support for research and development to accelerate advancements around technology, agriculture and fuels, health and climate, the development of an international stoves research center, efforts to adapt high-performing domestic stoves for global markets, and efforts to bring clean cooking solutions to homes in China.
To date, more than 300 public and private partners and 35 countries have joined the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves by making commitments to overcome market barriers and achieve large-scale production, deployment, and adoption of clean stoves and fuels in the developing world.

STATE DEPARTMENT ON CHEN GUANGCHEN


FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Chen Guangcheng
Press Statement Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson Washington, DC
May 4, 2012 
The Chinese Government stated today that Mr. Chen Guangcheng has the same right to travel abroad as any other citizen of China. Mr. Chen has been offered a fellowship from an American university, where he can be accompanied by his wife and two children.


The Chinese Government has indicated that it will accept Mr. Chen's applications for appropriate travel documents. The United States Government expects that the Chinese Government will expeditiously process his applications for these documents and make accommodations for his current medical condition. The United States Government would then give visa requests for him and his immediate family priority attention.
This matter has been handled in the spirit of a cooperative U.S.-China partnership.


FIREFIGHTERS CONDUCT CONFINED-SPACE TRAINING




FROM:  U.S. AIR FORCE
Firefighters with Schriever and Colorado Springs Fire Departments lift a “victim” during confined-space training May 1 at Schriever Air Force Base. The training is just one of the many events that Schriever and Colorado Springs Fire Departments have planned to perform. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes) 


Schriever, Colorado Springs firefighters conduct training 

by Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes
50th Space Wing Public Affairs

5/2/2012 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Firefighters with Schriever and Colorado Springs Fire Departments teamed up May 1 to conduct confined-space training at Schriever Air Force Base.

During the training, the firefighters learned how to integrate equipment and personnel, as well as plan for tactics and strategies to remove a victim from a confined space.

"The training consisted of equipment orientation and removal of victims from a controlled environment," said Rob Finley, Schriever Fire Department assistant chief of training. "Staying proficient at confined space entries, rescues and recoveries is a federal and Air Force requirement."

Finley said training with CSFD is important because it provides face time with mutual aid partners and ensures consistency across the profession.

"Meeting responders on the day we have an incident surely is not a show stopper, but the little things can and should be worked out beforehand," he said. "Plus, the city does not have a confined-space trainer, so this was really beneficial for the CSFD firefighters."

Aaron McConnellogue, CSFD lieutenant, said training with Schriever firefighters is a good learning experience for him and his fellow firefighters.

"It's a great interagency training, and it's huge for us," McConnellogue said. "We can't get enough of this type of training. We learned a lot from our Schriever counterparts."

The confined-space training is just one of the many events Schriever and Colorado Springs Fire Departments have planned to perform in the coming months.

"This training event was a success and it will help toward a better response effort when either department requests support," Finley said.

PLANT DIVERSITY KEY IN MAINTAINING PRODUCTIVE VEGETATION


FROM:  NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Plant Diversity Is Key to Maintaining Productive Vegetation 
Long-term study finds that each species plays a role in maintaining a productive ecosystem
May 3, 2012
Vegetation, such as a patch of prairie or a forest stand, is more productive in the long run when more plant species are present, results of a new study show.

The long-term study of plant biodiversity found that each species plays a role in maintaining a productive ecosystem, especially when a long time horizon is considered.

The research found that every additional species in a plot contributed to a gradual increase in both soil fertility and biomass production over a 14-year period.

This week's issue of the journal Science publishes the results. They highlight the importance of managing for diversity in prairies, forests and crops, according to Peter Reich, lead author of the paper and a forest ecologist at the University of Minnesota.

Reich and colleagues looked at how the effect of diversity on productivity of plants changed over the long-term.

Two large field experiments were conducted at the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Cedar Creek Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site in Minnesota, one of 26 such NSF LTER sites around the globe in ecosystems from forests to grasslands, tundra to coral reefs.

"This study reveals what short-term experiments have missed: that the effects of biodiversity loss on ecosystems are more complex, severe and unpredictable than previously thought," says Matt Kane, an NSF LTER program director.

"The work shows the importance of doing long-term research," says Kane, "in this case documenting for the first time the critical importance of biodiversity for ecosystem health and sustainability."

The biodiversity experiments at Cedar Creek are the longest-running such experiments in the world, says Reich.

They contain plots with one, four, nine or 16 different species of plants.
The research used long-lived prairie plants, but serves as a model system for all vegetation, whether prairie, forest or row crop.

The study also showed how diversity works by demonstrating that different species have different ways of acquiring water, nutrients and carbon--and maintaining them in an ecosystem.

"Prior shorter-term studies, most about two years long, found that diversity increased productivity, but that having more than six or eight species in a plot gave no additional benefit," Reich says.

The scientists found that over a 14-year time span, all 16 species in the most diverse plots contributed more and more each year to higher soil fertility and biomass production.

"The take-home message," says Reich, "is that when we reduce diversity in the landscape--think of a cornfield or a pine plantation or a suburban lawn--we are failing to capitalize on the valuable natural services that biodiversity provides."

Co-authors of the paper are David Tilman, Forest Isbell, Kevin Mueller, Sarah Hobbie and Nico Eisenhauer of the University of Minnesota, and Dan Flynn of the University of Zurich.

PLANTING A TREE FOR ARBOR DAY


FROM:  U.S. AIR FORCE 
Lt. Col. Mark Donnithorne, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron commander, helps plant a tree during the National Arbor Day observance April 26 at the R.P. Youth Center. (U.S. Air Force photo/Dennis Howk)

Tree-rific trees
by Lea Johnson
21st Space Wing Public Affairs

5/1/2012 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  -- Planting a tree is a gift you give to your children and grandchildren, and Peterson Air Force Base has left many gifts for future generations.

In a ceremony outside the R.P. Lee Youth Center April 26, Peterson AFB was presented the Tree City U.S.A. award for the 18th consecutive year by Andy Schlosberg from the Colorado State Forest Service. In addition, the Growth Award was presented for going above and beyond the Tree City U.S.A. requirements.

To be recognized as a Tree City U.S.A., a community must have a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, a community forestry program with a budget of at least $2 per capita, and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.

"Peterson Air Force Base has shown a commitment to maintaining and improving the trees that make up its community forest," Schlosberg said.

Col. Chris Crawford, 21st Space Wing commander proclaimed April 26 to be the Arbor Day observance on the installation.

The award was accepted by Lt. Col. Kathy Craver, 21st Mission Support Group deputy commander. Craver recognized Lt. Col. Mark Donnithorne, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron commander, as one of the driving forces behind Peterson's outstanding forestry program.

"This award is a direct result of the hard work by the staff in the civil engineer squadron. Your ongoing efforts to design, plant and maintain the trees on this base bring daily improvements to the quality of life," Craver said. "We are very aware of how much better our environment is because of the hundreds of trees and landscaping areas your staff has created."

Following the award presentation, kids from the child development center helped plant new trees outside the youth center.

Arbor Day was founded in 1872 by J. Sterling Morton of Nebraska City, Neb. "Most folks in most towns didn't see trees back then," Schlosberg said. "The special thing about Mr. Sterling is that even though he didn't see trees, he saw where trees could be."

An estimated one million trees were planted in Nebraska during the first observance of Arbor Day.

Arbor Day is now celebrated nationwide on various days depending on growing season.

Trees can reduce erosion of precious topsoil by wind and water, cut heating and cooling costs, moderate temperature, clean the air, produce oxygen, and provide habitat for wildlife. Furthermore, trees are a renewable resource providing paper, wood for homes, fuel for fires, and countless other wood products.